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What is GA4?

Like it or not, Google Analytics as we know it is changing in 2023. Google’s Universal Analytics is being replaced by the bigger and better GA4.

As of July 1st 2023, Google Analytics will stop receiving data from your site, and you’ll no longer have access by the end of the year.

Why is Google Analytics changing?

Whilst there are a good few reasons for the switch, a major one is focused on how Google deals with user data.

Currently, user data from Europe is exported and processed in the States – however, under GDPR this is a big no. GA4 aims to target how data is handled to ensure all privacy aspects are at the top of the list.

Not only this, the rise of ad blockers means that a lot of data currently processed by Google Analytics isn’t as accurate as it could be. Users on Google Chrome with no ad blockers in place are the optimum results for Analytics data, but in reality, this is a small percentage of users.

GA4 promises more flexible tracking, granular data, and a simpler setup in comparison to its older counterpart.

How to setup GA4

If you’re reading this and haven’t yet set up GA4 for your site, drop everything and go do it now.

The earlier you get this setup, the more data you’ll have in the future for comparison and analysis.

If you already have Google Analytics set up for your site, you’ll be prompted whenever you access your dashboard to start your GA4 journey. We recommend using Google Tag Manager to get this synced up – not only will it make the changeover process easier, it means you’re set up for custom tracking in the future.

Bonus points – use BigQuery to export your legacy Analytics data so you can use this in the future for data analysis with GA4.

What difference will GA4 make?

As well as the updated focus on user privacy, GA4 promises more data, more flexibility than UA tracking, and the incorporation of machine learning for both websites and apps.

So, if you have an app that accompanies your site, you’ll be able to track data and users across both in one easy-to-access place.

In GA4, each piece of data tracked is classed as a ‘hit’, meaning that you’ll be able to combine and compare all data across 50 different parameters. This will be easier and a lot quicker than in UA.

The information provided by this functionality is mammoth, but just because you can use it doesn’t always mean you should. Remember to only track what’s relevant and important for your goals – you’re looking for data that answer specific questions about your traffic. More isn’t always better.

1 – Audiences

New to GA4 – you’ll now be able to define audiences for both ads and organic traffic. These can be based on user behaviours and the customer journey.

One user can be a member of multiple audiences, so things look as flexible as we could possibly want them to be moving forward.

GA4 will allow you to create events based on audience members triggering these, then target any ads directly to these audiences – think users who add products to their basket but don’t complete a purchase. The prime opportunity for retargeting ads to users who have already shown interest in your product.

Another top tip – audiences can’t be populated with legacy data, only from when they’re created. So another reason to get GA4 started as soon as possible.

2 – Engagement rate

Bounce rate is a term we’ve all heard, and likely all worried about at one point. But is it worth all that panic? How important actually is it?

We’ve never been the biggest fans of bounce rates. They’re not 100% accurate. They doesn’t tell the full story.

So its counterpart in GA4 is definitely more up our street – introducing Engagement Rate. This is a more accurate measurement of activity on your site.

The UA bounce rate meant a user visited a page on your site and didn’t take action – but this isn’t always 100% true. What about users who visit your home page, grab your phone number from there and jump on a call without clicking anything? The UA bounce rate would class this as a lost visit, whilst we know that’s not really accurate.

GA4’s engagement rate looks to tackle this by qualifying a hit as a page being open in an active tab for 10 seconds (this is preset, you can update it if you need to).

The older bounce rate will now be a ‘negative engagement rate’ – so, any user who visited your site but didn’t qualify as engaged. This should help provide more accurate data and filter out some bot traffic too.

We’re keen to see how this develops over time, and if it changes our minds on bounce rate – stay tuned for our thoughts as GA4 continues to develop and grow throughout 2023.

3 – Attribution

In UA, attribution is based majorly on the source and medium info. So, where users came from, and how they got to your site.

Whilst this has been enough to get by, GA4 promises to expand on this.

‘Other’ will now be Unassigned, and new categories like Paid Social, Audio and Paid Shopping are being added to the list, so data will be fine-tuned further for reporting and analysis.

Reporting in GA4

All things reporting in GA4 will be found under the Explore tab.

With a stronger focus on privacy, GA4 data is protected by Thresholds, meaning if any data can be used to identify an individual it’ll be removed from your report.

Previously mentioned BigQuery can tackle this to an extent, as any data exported from your account is done so without thresholds, meaning more accurate reporting.

For more info on setting this up, visit Property Settings > Product Links > BigQuery links in your GA4 account. This data can then be used in Google Looker Studio for full reporting and data analysis for your site and app.

So what does this all mean?

It’s certainly a move forward in the right direction, and super beneficial if you have an app as well as a website to track.

GA4 is a powerful tool to let you better understand your audiences and improve your digital marketing – what’s not to love?

If you’re feeling lost with getting set up, give us a shout and we can talk you through the ins and outs of how GA4 can support your business.

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